Healthy Holistic Living

High Fructose Corn Syrup: “Well, you know what they say….”




Unless you live in a cave or have banned T.V. from your life you are likely to have seen the latest ads on television brought to you by the Corn Refiners Association suggesting that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is “OK in moderation.” HMMMMM…….. I wonder why it’s banned in Europe?

Anyway, according to Care2 columnist Eric Steinman, “the first commercial is more insidious of the bunch, consisting of two mothers at, what looks like, a child’s birthday party. Mom One spots Mom Two pouring out glasses of punch from what looks like a jug of anti-freeze and arrogantly chides “Wow, you don’t care what the kids eat, huh?” To which Mom Two politely asks her to substantiate her condemnation of high-fructose corn syrup, and of course, Mom One can’t deliver or recall exactly why high-fructose corn syrup is so bad for you, thus rendering her a red-faced dope. Mom Two negates Mom One’s befuddlement with the statement that high-fructose corn syrup is “made from corn, doesn’t have artificial ingredients and is fine in moderation.”

So, what is high fructose corn syrup?

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High-fructose corn syrup is a sweetener and preservative used in many processed foods. It is made by changing the sugar in cornstarch to fructose – sounds simple, right? Check out the definition below.

According to, “High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is any of a group of corn syrups which have undergone enzymatic processing in order to increase their fructose content and are then mixed with pure corn syrup (100% glucose) to reach their final form.”


Ok, so what do we mean by enzymatic processing?

According to Linda Joyce Forristal, “High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is produced by processing corn starch to yield glucose, and then processing the glucose to produce a high percentage of fructose. It all sounds rather simple–white cornstarch is turned into crystal clear syrup. However, the process is actually very complicated. Three different enzymes are needed to break down cornstarch, which is composed of chains of glucose molecules of almost infinite length, into the simple sugars glucose and fructose.

First, cornstarch is treated with alpha-amylase to produce shorter chains of sugars called polysaccharides. Alpha-amylase is industrially produced by a bacterium, usually Bacillus sp. It is purified and then shipped to HFCS manufacturers.

Next, an enzyme called glucoamylase breaks the sugar chains down even further to yield the simple sugar glucose. Unlike alpha-amylase, glucoamylase is produced by Aspergillus, a fungus, in a fermentation vat where one would likely see little balls of Aspergillus floating on the top.

The third enzyme, glucose-isomerase, is very expensive. It converts glucose to a mixture of about 42 percent fructose and 50-52 percent glucose with some other sugars mixed in. While alpha-amylase and glucoamylase are added directly to the slurry, pricey glucose-isomerase is packed into columns and the sugar mixture is then passed over it. Inexpensive alpha-amylase and glucoamylase are used only once, glucose-isomerase is reused until it loses most of its activity.

There are two more steps involved. First is a liquid chromatography step that takes the mixture to 90 percent fructose. Finally, this is back-blended with the original mixture to yield a final concentration of about 55 percent fructose–what the industry calls high fructose corn syrup.”

UMMMM..that doesn’t sound ‘natural’ or ‘healthy’ to me, but according to the Corn Refiners Association it’s perfectly natural and healthy – it’s made of corn after all! Well, ok, if you take a piece of corn stomp on it, mash it and alter it’s little genetic structure you can probably make just about anything.  Come to think of it…….

Here are a few other things made from corn :

  • Adhesives (glues, pastes, mucilages, gums, etc.)
  • Aluminum
  • Antibiotics (penicillin)
  • Asbestos insulation
  • Aspirin
  • Automobiles: cylinder heads, ethanol – fuel & windshield washer fluid, spark plugs, synthetic rubber finishes, tires

It certainly doesn’t mean you should add those to your diet!

You see, the Corn Refiners Association, according to their web site, “launched a multi-media advertising and public relations campaign to change the conversation about high fructose corn syrup.”  It sounds more like they did it to counter the latest studies suggesting that high fructose corn syrup is contributing to the increased rate in diabetes and obesity in our country.  It’s more like ‘big business’ propaganda then ‘changing the conversation.’

OK, so let’s get to the facts, what exactly is wrong with consuming High Fructose Corn Syrup?

Dr. Oz, author of  You: On A Diet: The Owner’s Manual for Waist Managementsays the body processes the sugar in high-fructose corn syrup differently than it does old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, which in turn alters your body’s natural ability to regulate appetite. “It blocks the ability of a chemical called leptin, which is the way your fat tells your brain it’s there.” And some studies indicate it never shuts off another hormone (ghrelin) that insists you’re hungry — so even after you’ve scraped the container clean, you may still think you want more.”

To put it another way, “your digestive system has two main hormones that control hunger and appetite. Ghrelin is secreted by the stomach and increases your appetite. When your stomach’s empty, it sends ghrelin out, requesting food. Leptin tells your brain that you’re full. HFCS inhibits leptin secretion, so you never get the message that you’re full. And HFCS never shuts off ghrelin, so even though you have food in your stomach, you constantly get the message that you’re hungry.”

The end result: Your brain misses out on hormone messages that signal a full stomach causing us to eat more.  That’s the physiology behind a theory gaining a lot of ground — the theory that our increasing consumption of HFCS is one of many elements at play in America’s obesity epidemic.


In a small study, Texas researchers showed that the body converts fructose to body fat with “surprising speed,” said Elizabeth Parks, associate professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, in a press release. The study, which appears in The Journal of Nutrition, shows how glucose and fructose, which are forms of sugar, are metabolized differently.

In humans, triglycerides, which are a type of fat in the blood, are mostly formed in the liver. Dr. Parks said the liver acts like “a traffic cop” who coordinates how the body uses dietary sugars. When the liver encounters glucose, it decides whether the body needs to store it, burn it for energy or turn it into triglycerides.

But when fructose enters the body, it bypasses the process and ends up being quickly converted to body fat.

“It’s basically sneaking into the rock concert through the fence,” Dr. Parks said. “It’s a less-controlled movement of fructose through these pathways that causes it to contribute to greater triglyceride synthesis. The bottom line of this study is that fructose very quickly gets made into fat in the body.(1)”

According to “new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition links diabetes with the rise in consumption of high fructose corn syrup. By examining the consumption of food macronutrients (fats, proteins and carbohydrates) consumed by the population from 1909 to 1997, researchers were able to correlate, with startling clarity, the rise of diabetes with the consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates.”

Foods with High Fructose Corn Syrup

Here are some foods with high fructose corn syrup that you may have never expected to contain the ingredients – foods you may be eating every day.

  • Yogurts
  • Breads
  • Frozen pizzas
  • Cereal bars
  • Cocktail peanuts
  • Boxed macaroni and cheese
  • Salad Dressing
  • Tomato-based Sauces
  • Applesauce
  • Canned Fruit

Although there are 10 foods here, we bet you can find many more. It costs companies more to sweeten their foods with sugar, and even more with honey. So, because they are interested in nothing more than the bottom line – money, they often choose HFCS. It’s in ketchups, soups, cereals, pasta sauces, and more.

The Bottom Line on Research….

You should avoid consuming high fructose corn syrup because of the following:

1. High-fructose corn syrup has been linked directly to obesity, diabetes and metabolic dysfunction.


2. High-fructose corn syrup elevates triglycerides levels, which can lead to heart disease.

3. High-fructose corn syrup is simply empty calories with no nutritional value whatsoever.

So everything is OK in ‘moderation,’ right?  Well, Yes and No.

As the key phrase in the commercial spot above states “when used in moderation” it’s perfectly healthy. Well, that’s a tough one when HFCS is in dam near everything we buy, including products that don’t need sweetener, such as yogurt, bread, and  even cough syrups.

Sure, if you consumed small quantities on HFCS on a weekly or monthly basis it wouldn’t likely be a concern.  But the problem is finding processed foods, which means 75% of foods sold in the grocery store today, without High Fructose Corn Syrup!  Americans are consuming a staggering amount of high fructose corn syrup each year.  As of 2001 we were consuming 62.6 pounds per person per year!  Let me repeat, yes, 62.6 pounds per person per year!  The consumption of high fructose corn syrup in 1966 was ZERO! Yep, ZERO!

Yikes!  So, the idea of ‘moderation’ is not likely if you buy any packaged foods. The solution, I’m afraid, requires quite a commitment.

Consider some of these tips:

  • Buy more fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Buy 100 percent fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.
  • If you buy canned fruit buy it canned in its own juices instead of heavy syrup.
  • Eliminate ALL Soda from your diet
  • Consider substantially decreasing the amount of packaged and processed foods you consume.
  • Read all labels!

It is sad, indeed, that the American public is now experiencing more chronic disease than at any time in recorded human history. We’ve done it to ourselves, and we’ve done it by allowing soft drink vendors to invade our schools, by allowing food companies to sell milled grains (like white flour) that lack any notable nutrition, and by falling for bad or faulty nutritional science. It’s time to take control over our health and our lives.

We have an opportunity to live longer healthier lives, but only if we empower ourselves with the right information and ultimately understand that the choice is ours to make… not the major companies marketing products

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Michelle Toole
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Michelle Toole

Michelle Toole is the founder and head editor of Healthy Holistic Living. Learn all about her life's inspiration and journey to health and wellness.
Michelle Toole
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